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Melancon v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

July 2, 2019

BRENNAN MELANCON
v.
STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE COMPANY ET AL.

         SECTION: “H”

          ORDER AND REASONS

          JANE TRICHE MILAZZO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Remand (Doc. 5). For the following reasons, the Motion is GRANTED .

         BACKGROUND

         This personal injury suit arises out of Plaintiff Brennan Melancon's vehicle collision with Defendant Aniba Williams in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. On or about October 19, 2017, Aniba Williams allegedly failed to yield the right of way, struck Plaintiff's vehicle, and caused injuries to Plaintiff's neck and back.

         On July 9, 2018, Melancon sued Williams; her insurer, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company (“State Farm”); and his own insurer, James River Insurance Company (“James River”), in Louisiana's 24th Judicial District Court for Jefferson Parish.

         Before Defendant James River filed its Notice of Removal, Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed Defendants Williams and State Farm. Then, on May 29, 2019, James River timely removed Melancon's suit to this Court on diversity grounds. To support removal, Defendant argued that the amount in controversy was over $75, 000.[1] Plaintiff responded with the instant Motion to Remand on April 22, 2019, arguing that the amount in controversy was below $75, 000.[2] Therefore, Plaintiff argues, Defendant has not satisfied its burden of establishing federal diversity jurisdiction at the time of removal, and this Court should remand this suit to state Court. Defendant opposes.[3]

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Generally, a defendant may remove a civil state court action to federal court if the federal court has original jurisdiction over the action.[4] The burden is on the removing party to show “that federal jurisdiction exists and that removal was proper.”[5] When determining whether federal jurisdiction exists, courts consider “the claims in the state court petition as they existed at the time of removal.”[6] District courts must “strictly construe” the removal statute, “and any doubt about the propriety of removal must be resolved in favor of remand.”[7] “If at any time before final judgment it appears that the district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, the case shall be remanded.”[8]

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         Under 28 U.S.C. 1332, “district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is between . . . citizens of different states.” The parties agree that complete diversity exists. What they disagree about is whether the amount in controversy is more than $75, 000.

         Upon removal, it is the defendant's burden to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional amount.[9] The defendant can satisfy this requirement by demonstrating that the claims are facially apparent to exceed $75, 000 or by producing summary judgment type evidence to show that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.[10]

         I. Facially Apparent Standard

         Initially, the Court must decide if Plaintiff's allegations meet the facially apparent standard. Here, Plaintiff alleges that “[a]s a result of the accident . . . [he suffered] injuries, including but not limited to, injuries to his back and neck.[11] As a result of those alleged injuries, he seeks damages for past, present, and future medical expenses, physical pain, and mental anguish.[12]

         An allegation that fails to describe the severity of a plaintiff's injuries is insufficient to satisfy the facially apparent standard.[13] “[S]uch allegations alone, unaccompanied by pertinent factual detail, ‘simply provide the usual and customary damages set forth by personal injury plaintiffs and do not provide the Court with any guidance as to the actual monetary amount of damages the plaintiff has or will incur.'”[14] Accordingly, it is not facially apparent from Plaintiff's complaint that the amount in controversy is more than $75, 000.

         II. Summary Judgment Type Evidence

         The court must now determine whether the Defendant, by production of “summary judgment type” evidence, has proven by a “preponderance of the evidence” that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.[15] In attempting to show that the amount in controversy exceeds the jurisdictional amount, the defendant may not simply assert that the damages will exceed $75, 000.[16]Furthermore, a defendant's production of summary judgment type evidence does not guarantee denial of a motion to remand.[17]

         A. Me ...


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